Amid Uncertainty and Hope, We Take Action

Over its 400-year history, the Vincentian Family has been no stranger to uncertain times. When Saint Vincent’s confrères—scattered, hiding, and hunted in Revolutionary France—faced the loss of their fellow priests, ministries, and motherhouse of Saint-Lazare, they leaned into uncertain and dangerous times, trusting in one another and in the Spirit. Today, we at DePaul University face uncertain times. The summer brought record heat, drought, wildfires, and rains across the globe. In the United States, as in many other parts of the world, economic disparities have left billions of people locked within dehumanizing poverty. The emergence of Artificial Intelligence portends seismic changes in higher education, numerous industries, and most aspects of our personal lives. What must be done?

Pope Francis addressing Congress September 2015. He called for an end to the death penalty and the arms trade, for compassion for immigrants and the poor and a global response to climate change.
Photo credit: Susan Melkisethian

As we move forward with Designing DePaul, we have an opportunity to help shape the future during uncertain times by responding to Pope Francis’ call in Laudate Deum “… to accompany this pilgrimage of reconciliation with the world.”[1]

Our Vincentian Family is called to respond to these and other challenges with vision and a commitment to equity, sustainability, and nonviolence. And we at DePaul University are uniquely situated to respond. We are rooted in the global city of Chicago. Our faculty, students, and staff represent countries and cultures from across the globe. Our alumni and community partners, situated in places near and far, are engaged in perhaps every conceivable industry. We are a global community, gathered for the sake of the mission, alive in this moment of history to respond to the signs of the times.

As you move through today’s uncertainty, consider how your experiences and gifts can help to shape a more hopeful future. What personal commitments can you implement in your daily life? What institutional changes will you advocate for alongside colleagues? What societal shifts can DePaul University contribute to in solidarity with our global community?

Reflection by: Rubén Álvarez Silva, M.Ed. (He, Him, His), Director for Just DePaul, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] Pope Francis, Laudate Deum, 4 October 2023. See: https://‌‌content/‌francesco/‌en/‌apost_‌exhortations/‌documents/20231004-laudate-deum.html.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

For many, this week marks the ending of the Christian liturgical season of Lent. As a period of preparation and self-examination, Lent encourages us to intimately, sometimes painfully, confront our own humanity, our shortcomings, our frailties, and our most searching questions. But, always, this personal exploration is meant to be done with a spirit of compassion and understanding that mirrors the love God feels for us. Truly, Lent can be a time of personal and spiritual challenge but equally it can be a time of self-improvement and growth in our relationship with God.

It seems DePaul University itself is also experiencing a moment in our history that resembles the Lenten season. Spurred by budgetary challenges, as an institution we are being asked to scrutinize ourselves with rigorous honesty and courage to determine where changes need to be made. These changes will hopefully guarantee our relevance and sustainability long into the future. The difficult choices to be made will require sacrifice, commitment to the common good, and deep reserves of wisdom if we are to honor our mission and preserve our most distinctive and valuable identity: that of being a Vincentian Catholic university.

As lifelong Catholics, co-founders of what we now call the Vincentian Family, and astute observers of human nature, Vincent and Louise were familiar with the personal challenges of Lent and the systemic challenges of institutional change. Based on the voluminous records left behind, we know they approached the latter with pragmatism, compassion, and faith. They accepted that change—in communities, in responsibilities, in plans—needed to occur for their mission of serving the poor to be effective.[1] But they also taught that these changes, like all decisions, must be inspired by love and guided by that great rule of charity requiring us to do to for each individual that good that we would want them to do to us. As leaders, colleagues, and community members, we must make decisions animated by compassion and bound by ties of friendship and respect.[2]

Underlying every decision Vincent and Louise made was their abiding faith in the providence of God. They had confidence that even amid struggle and uncertainty, God would eventually provide a path forward and the clarity to see this path. In light of this faith, as followers of Vincent and Louise, it is our responsibility to be attentive to the signs of where we are being led and to work tirelessly, with good will and honest effort, toward the worthy purposes given to us.

Today, the signs seem to be pointing DePaul toward a path of strategic change and investment to ensure that we are able to best fulfill our purposes as a Vincentian Catholic university. These changes may require difficult decisions and painful cuts and must be made not only with pragmatism but with love, compassion, respect, and faith. To do any less would be a violation of our mission and a disservice to our community’s heritage and to its future.

Reflection Questions:

At DePaul, when have you observed decisions being made that are grounded in pragmatism, love, and respect? How might you better be able to incorporate these values into your own decision-making?

If you were to scrutinize your own life, your choices, and attitudes, what might you identify as something that needs to change? How would you approach that change? Are you coming from a place of self-love and understanding?

Reflection by: Tom Judge, Assistant Director and Chaplain, Faculty and Staff Engagement, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] See, for example, these two quotes from Louise de Marillac: “Changes can and must occur. If they are not accepted, we shall never enjoy the peace of soul that is essential,” (Document A66, “(On the Necessity of Accepting Changes),”Spiritual Writings, 813); and “You are well aware that changes are always difficult, and that it takes time to learn new ways of serving the poor skillfully and well,” (Letter 337, “To My Very Dear Sister Cécile Agnès,” December 30, (1651) Spiritual Writings, 385). Available online at

[2] See Conference 207, “Charity (Common Rules Chap. 2, Art. 12),” May 30, 1659, CCD, 12:217. Available online at

Learning to Discern Well

“Virtue loves discernment and can never be excessive—neither too little nor too much.”
(Document 57, Journal of the Last Days of Saint Vincent, 5 June 1660, CCD, 13a:196.)

“…in the final analysis, virtue is not found in extremes, but in prudence.…”
Letter 881, To Etienne Blatiron, In Genoa, 26 October 1646, CCD, 3:101-02.

As the global community faces uncertainty and fear surrounding the COVID crisis, we are invited into a period of ongoing discernment individually and collectively about what to do and how to live in the midst of this current and unprecedented situation. Discernment might be thought of as both the art of making wise decisions about particular matters, as well as developing the habit of learning and growing in wisdom through our daily challenges and experiences.

A focus on discernment is especially suited to the current season of Lent, practiced by Catholics and in many other Christian traditions during these 40 days leading to the celebration of Easter. What wisdom might this time-tested annual spiritual practice hold for us now as we seek to discern well?

While we find little in Vincent de Paul’s writings specifically concerning the practices of Lent, he clearly invited his followers to consider what they might do in order to use this season well. For many Catholics in the northern hemisphere, the Lenten season is a sort of spiritual “spring training” during which we re-assess where we are on our journey and re-focus ourselves on what is most important.

For some, using the Lenten season well, therefore, means committing to positive action consistently over this 40-day period, hoping to build or deepen habits that reflect important values or goals. Others find it helpful to use the Lenten season to focus on refraining from habits that may be unwittingly pulling them away from what is most important—because sometimes we are swayed into navigating the stresses of life in ways that are ultimately harmful and do not reflect the best of who we are.

Vincent’s unswerving focus on moving from espoused values to lived virtues offers a timeless challenge particularly relevant for this season of Lent, as well as during this time of public crisis. Virtues, as Vincent understood them, are values that are embodied or put into practice consistently through our actions and in concrete ways. He believed that virtues are “acquired only by repeated acts,” and are not realized all at once but only “gradually, gently, and patiently” over time (1933, To Pierre de Beaumont, CCD, 5:443). Vincent tended not to rush making decisions, but waited for the best path to be revealed through careful attention to prayer and to the realities of life.

Certain situations in our lives offer us compelling opportunities to practice the art of discernment. We are living in such a situation now.

The Lenten season invites us to exercise these discernment muscles as a regular and ongoing practice in our lives, such that making wise decisions becomes more our habit. Vincent’s wisdom invites us to focus on putting our values into practice, and to pay careful attention to what is being revealed through our daily life, our experiences and relationships.

As we move through this season and the challenges before us, we also can look forward to the promise of springtime. May this season bless us with a deepened wisdom and a stronger connection to one another, as well as with hope for the abundance of new life on its way in the near future.

Reflection by:  Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President, Mission and Ministry